Is Your Phone Summer Ready? It’s Time to Start Summer Hours for Your Mobile Device!

For millions of American workers, Memorial Day weekend not only ushered in the unofficial start of summer, but the official start of summer hours. According to the Washington Post, around 40 percent of American companies now offer some version of the summer Friday perk to keep power charges low and recharge workers’ mental batteries.

So how about setting summer hours for our mobile device use? If you’re like most Americans, you can use it.

A mounting body of research shows cell phone addiction is a pervasive problem that’s deteriorating our health in numerous ways – anxiety, depression, loss of sleep, even wrist and hand pains. We know we’re on them too much, yet we do it anyway.

Dr. Jenna Meyerberg, PhD, LPC, an authority on youth social and emotional development, has written extensively about how living in an age of instant communication and nearly unlimited access to information is having a significant, negative impact on people. STOPit Solutions recently had an opportunity to sit with Dr. Meyerberg and talk about electronics addiction on the STOPit Solutions Podcast. In addition to providing helpful suggestions for encouraging everyone to unplug and being more present in real life (aka “IRL”), she shares  evidence-based research proving that people who are more disciplined in their online habits have higher self-esteem and confidence than their tech-obsessed peers.

These statistics and trends may feel oppressive, but the fact is that we DO have control over our own behavior and there’s no better time for a break than now. The beaches are open, the sun is out until 8:30 at night, and the warm breeze smells like flowers, the neighbor’s barbecue and freshly cut grass. Go out and enjoy it! Read on for a few simple ways we can institute summer hours for our phones and tablets.

 

Make a Plan and Apply It

A good way to start is to diagnose the ailment and set your cure. Both Apple and Google now have apps (Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing, respectively) that can tell you how much time you’re spending on your devices, with breakdowns by specific apps and categories.

Those who haven’t checked their stats before may be in for a shock. Studies have suggested that Americans check their phones once every 12 minutes – or roughly 80 times per day – and spend about four hours on them daily. Thankfully, Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing can be programmed to enforce time limits for your apps and lock them if you’ve crossed the line.

Take a look at your averages, come up with realistic goals for curbing your time and use these apps to hold you to them. Can you cut your app use by an hour per day? Two? Take the challenge!

No-Go Times

The dinner table used to be a family’s impenetrable bubble from the world. Kids told mom and dad what they learned in school and there were no interruptions allowed from the TV or ringing phones. Now everyone at the table is glued to Twitter and video games while they chew.

We can all make a meaningful dent in our gadget use by declaring them off-limits at times when good manners dictate they should be off anyway. Set a rule that they’re not allowed in the same room as the dinner table. Apply the same standards to times that are meant to be about family and friends – summer vacation trips, graduation parties, the annual golf outing. You can never get those moments back.

And if you’re out for a meal with friends, encourage everyone to pile them in the center of the table with the sound off. First person to give in picks up the check!

Be a Cellular Role Model

If you want to make summer hours stick with your kids, do as you say and say as you do. Like just about anything with parenting, it’s easy to dictate a bunch of rules and quite another thing to enforce them. If you lecture your kids about a bad behavior and then model it in front of them, they won’t take the lesson seriously or follow it.

If you lay down a “no Kindle before summer camp” rule, don’t let them see you glued to Facebook over your morning coffee. Show them it can be done.

Think about ways you can make summer hours a family affair. If everyone in your house is a part of the challenge, you can hold each other accountable and set up fun prizes for those who reach their goals.

And who knows — once summer hours are over and schools are back in session, maybe some of these healthy, new habits will stick. To paraphrase an old saying, “An app less per day keeps the doctor away.”

Into Action

Download our tip sheet and hang it on the refrigerator and home and work — or pass it along to a friend who you can recruit to take the challenge with you.

For extra satisfaction, write down what you did during the hour (or two) you reclaimed each day. Did you get an extra hour of sleep? Take the time to cook your favorite meal? Walk the dog on a new trail or have that family movie night you keep talking about? Let’s work together to live healthier, happier lives — right now! 

A Look At The Year Ahead: 2019 Bullying Statistics & Trends

By Neil Hooper, COO of STOPit Solutions

The most recent year once again experienced not only some horrible acts of school shooting, but some emerging jarring and tragic statistics on concerning youth behavior.  Bullying and the effects of bullying continues to grow, and we need to remember not to sideline this arguably even more brutal topic while we also address student and school safety.

Finding ways to address bullying is part of our company’s DNA. STOPit Solutions was founded in 2013 on a seemingly normal day after a story on the radio aired and turned out to change our lives forever.  The radio story reminded us of the tragic story of Amanda Todd, a victim of aggressive cyberbullying.  She suffered aggressive online predation and the cruel and relentless taunting by her peers led to her taking her own life at just 15 years old. Amanda had shared her story via flashcards in a YouTube video that caught the world’s attention. We believed the key to helping youth like Amanda and others is to empower them with technology to ask for help.

While school safety remains in the forefront of our minds and tools like STOPit encourages reporting of known issues, the ongoing social and emotional impact of bullying of people like Amanda and its effects are an every day challenge that we are driven to help our school partners address.

In fact, according to numerous studies, including one recently from author Gary Ladd, a psychology researcher at Arizona State University in Tempe, not only does bullying at school affect students’ emotional and social lives, it also directly affects their schoolwork and engagement in the classroom.  

“Nationally, there have been high-profile suicides and school districts trying to implement bully prevention programs,” Ladd commented. “Teachers, parents, school administrators and anyone who knows a school-age kid should understand these effects.”

Ladd’s team found that children who are most chronically bullied are the most likely to have low school engagement, academic self-perception and academic achievement, particularly in math.

According to a study from UCLA, every day more than 280,000 students are physically attacked in schools and one out of ten students who drop out of school, mentions repeated bullying as a factor. Jaana Juvonen, a professor of psychology at UCLA and lead author of the study, states that bullying and low academic achievement are frequently linked. Juvonen is quoted saying, “Students who are repeatedly bullied receive poorer grades and participate less in class discussions. […] Students may get mislabeled as low achievers because they do not want to speak up in class for fear of getting bullied.” Juvenon also remarked that, “Once students get labeled as ‘dumb,’ they get picked on and perform even worse.”

Additionally, in a study from researchers at the University at Buffalo, teens that are victims of cyberbullying are likely to suffer from poor sleep which contributes depression.

The stats around the effects of bullying are staggering and continuous, which is why if we want to keep our kids in school and give them the best possible chance of succeeding, as well as have our students achieve higher academic ratings, reducing and eliminating bullying is a leading contributing factor. 

Beyond affecting grades, the social and emotional learning (SEL) and self-harm statistics generally linked to bullying are hard to ignore.  The most recent data from the CDC confirms a 70% – 77% increase in teen suicide rates over the past 10 years, and the increase is seen in virtually every state in the nation.

Additional data from the CDC confirm that for ages 10-14 and ages 15-24, suicide is the second leading cause of death in the nation (ahead of homicide or health related issues).

The issues span gender, race and socioeconomics, and virtually every statistic related to this topic have been rising year over year over the past 10 years.

Bullyingstatistics.org tells us that:

  • For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts.
  • Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it

Youth suicide is an incredibly difficult event for families, schools, and entire communities. The fact remains in study after study: Being the victim of bullying can deeply affect a young person and the entire community around them and it’s time to put local programs in place to help our schools with their specific issues. From locally implemented anonymous reporting to help youth speak up, through integrated SEL content to assist issues as they arise, we look forward to a day when our schools have the tools they need to help our children with these new threats to their wellbeing.

The STOPit Solutions premise is simple: Bullying isn’t done in private. Bullies want attention and their action are witnessed. It is seen and heard, and we need to empower bystanders to become upstanders. We all know the concerns surrounding the stigma of speaking up, so in order to get the conversation started we empower anonymous reporting—and it works. In STOPit schools that consistently use the platform to get ahead of issues before they spiral out of control, the school culture becomes a more inclusive and protective community.  Stopping bullying can begin with the help of fellow students, and using STOPit is an integral component of that strategy.

Want to find out more about how STOPit Solutions can help your organization?

Educators Play An Important Role In Reinforcing Critical Social & Emotional Learning

It was National Teacher Appreciation Week this month, and we have more to say “thank you” for these days than ever. The seven hours per day, five days per week that students spend with their teachers is an opportunity for school-aged children to learn more than reading, writing and arithmetic lessons.

More and more, superior teaching programs and ongoing professional development requirements continue to elevate the profession, and kids in the classroom benefit from more a more complex, connected curriculum that includes best practices in technology and Social Emotional Learning:

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, establish and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions. SEL is critical to developing competencies besides academic content knowledge that are necessary to succeed in college and in careers. Effective SEL programming begins in preschool and continues through high school. SEL programming is based on the understanding that the best learning emerges in the context of supportive relationships that make learning challenging, engaging, and meaningful. — The National Education Association, Backgrounder: The Importance of Social Emotional Learning For All Students Across All Grades

Parents are the alpha and omega when setting the example and teaching their kids important lessons about empathy, compassion, critical thinking, conflict resolution and decision-making. This week, we encourage parents to seize the opportunity to forge even stronger partnership with teachers who are increasingly equipped through education and special training to reinforce these critical Social Emotional Learning lessons.

Parent-Teacher Compact, 3.0

Technology has both complicated and bolstered our work, and our K-12 classrooms are no exception to this fact. Like all tools, technology has the power to enable wonderful progress, or inflict damage when used carelessly or without skill. In our schools and in our homes, it has created digital minefields where children can inflict emotional damage on one another on and off school grounds, around the clock.

It has also provided new avenues for parents and teachers to make each other more successful.

Not long ago, parents’ only option for contacting teachers off hours was to call them at home, a step that felt intrusive for a non-emergency. Now parents can use social media, email and texts for something as simple as a homework assignment question, to far more serious discussions about a child getting bullied online.

Parents should keep those lines of communication open so they’re better aware of what’s going on in the classroom and the SEL lessons being emphasized, according to Melissa Straub, founder of High Impact Youth Training Solutions.

“Educators have a really hard battle and their hearts are in the right place,” Straub said. “Most of them have the tools and the educational foundation to provide these wonderful gifts of SEL – teaching kids all about good things like empathy, conflict resolution and emotion management. It’s just a matter of getting the message out there and getting the parents to back them up.”

One of the most important ways parents can do that is by modeling behavior that reinforces what’s being taught in school. Straub noted that if you lecture a child about taking a break from their cell phones or not reacting emotionally to a social media post, the lessons won’t hold if they see you’re not following your own rules.

SEL Lessons Protect Our Kids and Reveal Their Strengths, IF They’re Equipped & Practiced

Straub is also the founder and lead investigator for Without A Trace Investigations, which specializes in social media-related investigations, including cybercrime, cyberbullying, sexting and other social networking issues. She stressed that one of the most important things parents can do to promote good digital citizenship and support SEL efforts is to talk long and hard with their children about the internet before giving them access to it.

Teens have to navigate a literal obstacle course of road cones, study written materials and drive under adult supervision for months before receiving a driver’s license, she noted. They need nothing of the sort to enter the digital world.

“Before handing over this wonderful gift of technology, a lot of parents don’t stop to think, ‘Are these children ready for this? Have I talked to them about safety concerns?’” Straub said. “Don’t fall to peer pressure. Make your own decision on when they’re ready.”

STOPit Solutions is the only anonymous reporting application to offer SEL resources for educators and student users. The STOPit SEL Center contains an easy-to-search database of articles, studies, video, audio and other content covering topics from cyberbullying to depression. Administrators can share links to SEL content with individual students, or use the platform’s broadcast feature to send information to a full student body at once.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) also offers a comprehensive collection of SEL tools and resources to inform and support parents, educators and other stakeholders. Much of this information is free and available to the public online.

Curious  how our  anonymous reporting system and SEL Center can help teachers and parents collaborate successfully in your school? 

And, be sure to #thankateacher!

Summer Break Soon For Schools, But Legislators Across the Country Continue To Advance Anti-Bullying Laws Nationwide

We’re just over a quarter of the way through the year, but 2019 has already seen significant developments in the nation’s state houses regarding bullying and harassment.

The following is a snapshot of recent activity by state:

ARIZONA: With bipartisan support in the State Legislature, Gov. Doug Ducey repealed a 1991 law this month that barred public school teachers from portraying “homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle” in the classroom. The move was spurred by a lawsuit filed on behalf of two teens who contended the law had destructive impacts on LGBTQ students – namely, that it held teachers back from building tolerance among student bodies and contributed to bullying. “I am so proud of this 12-year-old and this 15-year-old for standing up and suing our state to do the right thing, because today’s vote is long overdue,” Rep. Andrés Cano said on the Arizona House floor. ” Our schools should be safe; they should be inclusive; they should be free from harassment, bullying and stigmatization.”

INDIANA: The Indiana House of Representatives rejected a measure that would have required private schools that accept state funding to follow the same anti-bullying rules as their public school counterparts. According to a report by WRTV of Indianapolis, the bill called for non-public schools to implement a protocol for investigating incidents, timetables for sharing information about incidents with police and parents, and to offer anonymous reporting option for students, among other steps. More encouraging for Indiana, is House Bill 1607, legislation that would allow students to get a protective order to stop bullying including cyberbullying.

MARYLAND: “Grace’s Law 2.0” will carry stronger fines and jail terms for cyberbullying and make offenses easier to prosecute. The law was named after Grace McComas, a 15-year-old who committed suicide in 2012 after being victimized online. McComas’s parents were on hand as Gov. Larry Hogan signed the bill into law this month. One of the most prominent changes to the law makes it an offense to post harassing content online for the consumption of a broad audience, even if the target of the bullying doesn’t see it.

MASSACHUSETTS: Gov. Charlie Baker re-filed a bill in February that aims to modernize the law regarding revenge porn, sexting and cyberbullying. The legislation would provide prosecutors with new flexibility to enroll minors who are caught sharing sexually explicit images with their peers into educational diversion programs, rather than charging them for the distribution or possession of child pornography. It would also require schools to educate their students on the harm they can cause by sharing sexual images with others as a means of bullying. In addition, the law would close a prosecution loophole for those over 18 who share images that were taken consensually for the purposes of revenge or embarrassment. The bill was first proposed in 2017, but failed to clear the Legislature at the time.

NEW JERSEY: The state became the second in the nation to require public school districts to develop an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. Signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in February, the legislation will ensure that instructional materials reflect the political, economic and social contributions of LGBTQ Americans and people with disabilities. The advocacy group, Garden State Equality, celebrated the announcement, noting in a statement that reflecting more diversity in class lessons “will cultivate respect towards minority groups, allow students to appreciate differences, and acquire the skills and knowledge needed to function effectively with people of various backgrounds.”

NEW MEXICO: The Safe Schools for All Students Act will require school boards to enact comprehensive bullying prevention policies and procedures by New Year’s Day. Signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in April, the act demands schools provide avenues for reporting bullying (both orally in their preferred language and anonymously), a process for investigating complaints of bullying, due  process for students accused of bullying, and a range of disciplinary measures for students found to have bullied other students. The law specifically cites the need for better protecting LGBTQ students and demands that schools’ new bullying policies be communicated in various languages in student handbooks. Schools will also have to report annually on their progress implementing the act.

NORTH DAKOTA: State officials amended North Dakota’s 2011 anti-bullying law to require that schools develop plans for addressing online abuse taking place off school grounds. Although some officials expressed reservations about schools becoming liable for off-campus incidents, the bill overwhelmingly passed both houses of the Legislative Assembly and was signed by Gov. Doug Burgum in April. The law calls for schools to get involved in situations where electronic communications initiated off grounds  place the student in “actual and reasonable fear” of harm and “interferes with the student’s educational opportunities or substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the public school.” It also requires school district personnel to notify police if they have a reasonable suspicion that a crime might have occurred on or off school property.

 Click here to learn more about anti-bullying laws, policies and regulations on the books throughout the U.S.

Want more info on anti-bullying legislation in your state?

Not Hopeless: Integrating Trauma-Informed Care To Positively Impact Youth Considering Self-Harm

Note: This post may trigger an adverse reaction. If it is beginning to upset you, please stop reading and talk to your support team.

Young people who take their own lives: know the warning signs of mental illness

We are saddened by the continuing statistics surfacing around youth suicide, including the 2 most recent in Parkland, Florida. While school safety is the largest visible topic that we address across the country with our STOPit platform, the hidden issue we address far more commonly relates to youth depression, mental illness and suicidal thoughts.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), for every child lost in a school violence/shooting in the United States, there are 25 lost to suicide. In fact, upwards of 6% of the reports we receive on our platform each week in K12 schools are tied to suicide.

School shootings need to end, and at STOPit we are dedicated to continuing to help avoid planned attacks and violence with our approach that encourages bystanders to become upstanders. However, for every school threat avoided, we help avoid significantly more self harm incidents thanks again to upstanders using STOPit. It is clear that youth suicide is an epidemic that should emerge as an equally high priority in the wake of recent tragedies.

As such, we teamed up with Strive, a trauma-informed outpatient recovery program, to discuss how they have implemented evidence-based techniques to help individuals, schools, and communities heal from the results of trauma. As experts in this field, they have a valuable perspective on how to help avoid these events before they occur and how to implement effective programs if they ever did.

Q: Let’s start with the environment before there is a tragedy. Students often know when their friends are struggling. They recognize telltale signs and behaviors that are indicators of broader issues. How do you communicate with schools and their students about the importance of saying something, knowing this?

Strive: We point out to schools that students, who spend all their time with their peers, notice much more than the more openly troubling behaviors of their friends.

There are the obviously dangerous behaviors: John is getting into fights where he never did before. Mary is smoking (marijuana). Someone is cutting themselves (self-harm).

But there are also more subtle warning signs. It takes training and education to notice these:

– “My friend doesn’t want to do the things he used to love to do; he won’t play Lacrosse anymore, say.” Hearing this, a counselor might ask, “Why not? Is your friend under pressure not to fail? Is he being mocked? Threatened?”

– “I notice that Jennifer is only eating salads lately. And she’s dressing differently.”

– “My buddy Tom is suddenly eating alone in the cafeteria and doesn’t talk much.”

These are all behaviors which might point to depression, anxiety, or social tensions.  Students, and frankly many adults, won’t pick up on them because they seem inconsequential. But to counselors, they might turn out to be important indicators, warning signs.

We don’t want to over diagnosis; but we must be aware.

The key point is, to notice these things takes education and training, for all of us, and especially for young people. Then they need an accessible way to report them, a way they will accept and use within their own value system.

Q: We all went to school, and we know the feeling at that age that it’s socially risky to “get other kids into trouble.

Strive: Yes, kids have their culture, and it seems risky to ‘tattle’, to tip off the school or parents to these issues, especially regarding the bigger problems. But we believe we can change this attitude for many young people. We try hard to reach young people about caring, and real responsibility for their friends.  Couple this approach with a way of reporting behaviors anonymously, and schools and parents can begin receiving — literally — life-saving information.

Q: Can you talk a little about the importance of 24/7 monitoring; so not only in school but also after school?

Strive: Yes, a few points on this are important to understand.

In the evenings, young people can become disconnected from their social milieu even though they may think that social media substitutes. Weekends, especially Sundays, the “reentry day,” can become problematic for young people with anxiety or depression. So 24/7 family support and awareness, and if necessary, communicating back to school counselors is critical.

Young people express anxiety and depression differently than adults.  While adults may become saddened or suppressed, young people are likely to become irritable, or transfer emotional pain to their bodies, as chronic pain, or headaches, or even stomach aches. Adolescents can become resistant and antagonistic as any parent knows.

We believe it’s important to have a set dinner time, preferably with the phones turned off. Behavioral issues are a disease of disconnection, so we urge families to connect and listen.

We don’t want to become helicopter parents, but we do want to keep a line in.

Q: As a service provider addressing trauma, you deal first-hand with children’s safety and that must, at times, feel daunting. How do you stay positive and what is your advice to those  that are feeling overwhelmed by the statistics around self harm and suicide in our youth?

Strive: You said it! We are exposed to trauma every day, sometimes all day and it isn’t easy.   But trauma is not the only phenomenon in this life. We urge people to express gratitude, with intention and with honest feeling for the wonderful people and beautiful things that do happen around us. One clinician at Strive creates a “gratitude list.” There are clinicians and clients who balance the bad by making a point of helping— a friend, a social agency. And hey, you can turn off the cable TV every so often.

We thank Strive for helping us with the discussion around this difficult topic and we appreciate the Strive Cares perspective.

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Are you, or is someone you know, struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm?

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers, and provides free and confidential emotional support to people who are in crisis, or experiencing emotional distress, 24/7. For immediate assistance, call 1-800-273-8255.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is April: Stay Informed, Stay Vigilant and Take Action to Combat Sexual Assault

The momentum of movements like Me Too and Time’s Up is causing society to make a major shift in how we discuss and react to sexual violence, as well as how sexual assaults are identified, reported, and prevented. And there is no time is better to lead and participate in these discussions than now, since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a time when survivors and advocacy groups work to raise awareness surrounding the pervasive issue of sexual violence.

And the prevalence of sexual assault can be shocking.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC):

  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.
  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they are 18 years old.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
  • 90% of college sexual assault victims don’t report the assault.
  • Rape is the most underreported crime: 63% of cases are never reported to police.

These statistics make it clear that sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem. Moreover, in addition to immediate costs such as medical expenses and missed wages, sexual assault can have devastating long-term impacts like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

What’s not as clear, as evidenced by a growing body of research, is how victims can safely reach out to report incidents and ask for help. Anecdotal and peer-reviewed research both confirm that victims of sexual assault, rape, or sexual abuse almost unanimously report that it is often confusing to know where to turn to report an incident — and it’s always intimidating.

Statistics and surveys are also showing that while the #MeToo movement may be encouraging more victims feel to come forward, victims and witnesses are not reporting these attacks using traditional methods. Survivors have given the following reasons for not reporting a sexual assault:

  • Fear of retaliation
  • Scared of hostile treatment by the authorities
  • Uncertain that authorities would consider the incident serious enough
  • Did not want family or friends to know about it
  • Didn’t know how to report the incident

Workplaces and schools can take a modern approach to protecting their people and their reputation by utilizing smartphone apps like STOPit as a 21st century solution. These tools are designed to create a safe space for students and employees to report incidents freely—and without fear. The hope is that by making it simple and anonymous, people will be encouraged to report, which allows for real-time, positive intervention for the victim as well as the additional benefit of helping to quickly identify repeat offenders.

Learn More About How STOPit Can Empower People to be Courageous When Confronting Sexual Assault

It’s encouraging to recognize that safe, anonymous reporting tools and improvements in organizational cultures are bolstering the courage of bystanders — giving them the confidence to get involved in protecting their co-workers by providing corroborating evidence in support of a friend’s, classmate’s or co-worker’s report. In a problem this serious, we celebrate every step forward.

“I Ask” for “Awareness to Action”

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center, a leading nonprofit in providing information and tools to prevent and respond to sexual violence, has adopted “I Ask” as their theme for this year’s SAAM. The campaign, “champions the message that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.” Words and actions shape our world and culture: raising awareness of how often sexual violence happens; talking about consent; sharing safety, prevention, and reporting strategies; and learning helpful and compassionate ways to talk to survivors are the goals of SAAM.

The good news is that individuals, communities, and companies are already taking important steps to successfully combat the risk of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse through conversations, programs, policies, and tools that promote safety, respect, and equality. Marriott has received a lot of recent, positive press for its corporate commitment to stamping out human trafficking in the hospitality industry.

Campaigns like #MeTooK12 and RAAIN’S Awareness to Action, provide everything from statistics to help define the problem and put it in context, to practical tools like scripts for how to hold a conversation with friends, family and community about sexual violence. They even provide ready-to-go graphics and campaign hashtags to help promote the conversation on social media platforms.

Encouraging as these campaigns are, however, we need to stay committed to working for real, lasting solutions to sexual violence in our workplaces, schools and communities. Recent news stories like the one that exposed rampant corruption —  including cheating and bribery — in the college admissions scandal, make it easier for us to allow the seriousness of this issue fade into the background and threaten to drown out emerging conversations that are calling for action — like those that are happening right now in higher education.

In fact, sexual misconduct is the most frequently reported and managed incident type on the STOPit app for Higher Education customers. Cases brought against campuses, including William Paterson University, and Ivy League schools such as Yale University where three students have filed a class-action lawsuit, arguing that the university has enabled a fraternity culture of harassment, remind us to remain engaged and vigilant — even as we celebrate progress towards the goal of making sexual harassment and victimization, rare.

Let’s Do More All Year Long to Combat Sexual Assault.

What else can be done to help? Individuals can show support for survivors, stand up to victim blaming, correct harmful misconceptions, and promote everyday consent.

Though it is certainly a good thing that SAAM gives us an opportunity to come together as a community to learn more and do more, one month isn’t enough to solve the widespread issue of sexual violence. However we can use the attention SAAM generates as an opportunity to energize and expand prevention efforts throughout the year.

The NSVRC is calling on supporters to wear teal on April 2, their “Day of Action,” as a way to spread awareness and show solidarity with survivors.

For more ideas and opportunities to get involved all month long, visit these organizations online:

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

RAAIN

NO MORE

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Each voice is powerful and necessary in preventing sexual violence, misconduct, and abuse. SAAM is a powerful a reminder that we can change the world through the things we say and do each day.

For more information about STOPit and how organizations are using the anonymous reporting app to encourage healthier, safer communities, workplaces and schools, call one of our safety solutions experts, today.

Moms Empower Bystanders To Become Upstanders with Technology: STOPit Joins Experts for Podcast On Bullying in Schools

Moms Empower Bystanders To Become Upstanders with Technology:

STOPit Joins Experts for Podcast On Bullying in Schools

Recently, Neil Hooper, COO of STOPit Solutions, appeared on WJCT Radio with host of First Coast Connect, Melissa Ross, and fellow guests Dr. David Chesire of the University of Florida Health Jacksonville and Bryna Rodenhizer, Contributor to the Jacksonville Moms Blog. During the nearly 30 minute interview, they talked frankly about the impact of bullying in schools, including the importance of empowering bystanders to be part of the solution to what UNESCO recently named a global epidemic.

We’re happy to share an excerpt of this conversation here, as well as a link to the audio for the entire morning show segment.

WJCT is a local affiliate of NPR Radio.

Melissa Ross: Good morning, we’re live from studio five, and this is First Coast Connect. I’m Melissa Ross, and thanks for listening. Just ahead this morning, how local schools are empowering kids to use their phones to stop bullying and cyber abuse.

Melissa Ross: Next week the Glenn County, Georgia school system plans to launch a new program called STOPit. It’s a new technology platform that helps schools stop bullying, cyber abuse, threats of violence, kids self-harming, and other troublesome behaviors. Now, the way STOPit works is students can submit anonymous reports through the platform, either by text message, photos, or video. They go straight to school administrators, who can then conduct investigations and make schools safer. We’re really curious to learn more about STOPit, so we’re going to take a closer look at this new app, and also, how bullying affects kids in schools and how that’s being studied here in our area.

Melissa Ross: As we welcome Dr. David Chesire, associate professor, University of Florida Health Jax. He’s on the line. Good morning doctor.

Dr. David C.: Good morning, glad to be here.

Melissa Ross: Neil Hooper is with us. He’s the Chief Operating Officer for STOPit, also joining us by phone. Hi Neil.

Melissa Ross: (also) Joining us here in studio, Bryna Rodenhizer. She’s a contributor to the Jacksonville Moms Blog. Bryna, good morning to you.

Bryna R.: Good morning.

Melissa Ross: Thanks for being with us. Okay. In a moment we’ll learn a little bit more about the STOPit…

Neil Hooper: Hi Melissa.

Melissa Ross: Hi Neil, Chief Operating Officer of STOPit. Thanks for being with us. All right, STOPit, this new app that’s going to launch next week up in Georgia, in Glenn County, how does it work?

Neil Hooper: Well, I think you gave a great introduction. We’re in over 3,000 schools now and what happens is we announce to the students that the app is available, they go to the app store or Google Play and download the app. They type in their school code and then their messages are routed directly to school administrators. It works really well and actually what the audience may be interested in is the … We often find that it’s a bystander that is submitting the report.

Melissa Ross: Right. Empowering kids who are not either bullies or being bullied to speak up, the bystander effect, that’s been studied in schools. This is a way for kids who might, I guess, feel intimidated about speaking up to do so. Is that right?

Neil Hooper: Well, that’s right, and key to our solution is that we provide anonymity for the students. The greatest fear that most kids have in school is being labeled a snitch. I think we can all … I think many of us would agree that our kids are good kids and they want to do the right thing, but they’re afraid to do the right thing, so by making it anonymous, they can have the courage to do the right thing, speak up when they know something is wrong, and as I said, the message will be routed directly to the school and then the school with the STOPit platform can communicate back and forth with the student on the app and gather more information about what’s going on.

Neil Hooper: We find that giving the kids an avenue to speak up and then giving the school a way to communicate back and forth with that brave reporter can help us get to the bottom of issues before they spiral out of control. I think the downstream effects of not addressing bullying can be really scary and we’re seeing some horrible statistics nationally about youth depression and youth suicide and we really want to get ahead of these things before they spiral out of control.

Melissa Ross: Just last week, a 10 year old boy in Louisville, Kentucky committed suicide and his parents say it’s because he had been bullied at school over a medical condition, a medical defect that he had, and so Neil, this is very serious business, kids are killing themselves. Let me ask you though as a follow up, with the STOPit app, are you concerned at all about kids using it maliciously, filing false reports and are there legal issues, liability issues around kids taking videos and sending them to administrators?

Neil Hooper: Well, I’ll take the legal question first. The good news is that these solutions are protected by federal law, so there is no issue whatsoever of a minor reporting these things to the school. The network is entirely private, so the students reports go only to the school and then the school communicates back and forth to students. So, that is … There’s no liability there that’s been investigated, and we abide by COPPA and FERPA and other related federal laws, so that’s okay.

Neil Hooper: The schools themselves have, of course, the responsibility to read these messages if they’re sent in, and we provide a service and Glenn County has added this service, we’ll actually monitor the account for our schools to make sure that they’re made aware that something has been reported. We’ll contact the school to let them know a child has sent something, so we really have their backs, so to speak, to make sure that if something is reported, it’s taken care of.

Melissa Ross: Bryna. Bryna Rodenhizer, who writes for the Jacksonville Moms Blog, and you’ve written about bullying, as a parent, as you’re listening to this, what are your thoughts?

Bryna R.: Oh, I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s great to have that resource available for children who are old enough to use it. I think that it is a great segue from teaching younger children how to address bullying, and then once they’re older, and it’s appropriate to use that app, I think it’s fantastic.

Melissa Ross: Dr. David Cheshire is on the line with us from UF Health Jax. Until recently you were a trauma psychologist, and Dr. Cheshire, UF Health has even been conducting a study on the public health effects of school bullying, what are your thoughts about the way new technological innovations are being developed to address this issue, because certainly schools have tried all kinds of avenues to deal with bullying? What about this?

Dr. David C.: Yeah, no, I always say when we do public health meetings, the second we start talking about bullying, that’s the rest of the meeting, it’s what we’re going to talk about from that point forward, because it is such a sprawling problem and difficult to deal with. I’m in favor of any tools that are out there that we can use if they’re effective, and this one sounds like a great one. It’s going to be as effective as the school makes it. I like what he (Hooper) said earlier about the school’s (being) ultimately responsible for investigating what’s going on. I think that’s where basically everything’s going to fall.

Dr. David C.: For children, well, for anybody really, but for children in particular, what’s most important is that they feel that they’ll be believed when they make a report, that they feel that there’ll be some sort of follow up and that they don’t have the fear of retaliation, which kind of gets to that question you had about will this be used actually in and of itself be bullying too? So to the extent that kids feel comfortable with this, I think it’d be an amazing tool to try to identify and ultimately defeat bullying in schools.

Melissa Ross: Neil Hooper of STOPit, this is enrolling next week in Glenn county, Georgia. You’re also in some other Florida school districts and districts all over the country. Correct? I believe you’re even looking at using this app in adult workplaces as well. Is that right?

Neil Hooper: That’s right. We have 12 live accounts in Florida. We’re new to Florida, and we’re expanding across the country, and yes, the issues that we’re describing in schools, I think we would all agree often are seen in the workplace as well, around harassment and discrimination concerns. Once again, these things happen and people are afraid to speak up because they’re afraid about their job. So the power of STOPit is with the ability to report anonymously and for the right people to communicate back to the individual to gather more information about what’s going on.

Melissa Ross: How about the fact too that kids use their phones to bully each other, to cyber bully each other, so in effect you’re giving children a weapon, I guess, to fight back, empowering them to use their phones to turn the dynamic around, it sounds like?

Neil Hooper: Well, Melissa, I’m glad you brought that up, and that’s … What you’ve just said there was the formation of our company. We noticed that with the advent of smartphones, and kids over the last few years have increasing access to both smartphones and social media applications, they are using those devices and those applications to cyber bully. Often the cyber bullying is done in a group environment, imagine in many of these cases, there are three or four or five or six classmates picking on another student in one of these group text settings. As you said, we can turn this situation around. You can take a screenshot of this horrible behavior, attach it to a STOPit report, send it to the administration and you have an adult step in and put an end to this very bad behavior.

Melissa Ross: Bryna Rodenhizer of the Jacksonville Moms blog, this is something you’ve blogged about, how important it is to educate kids not to be silent if they see another child being bullied or harmed. There’s a documentary film about this, Submit, The Documentary, that you’ve blogged about. Do you think that, with your own kids, I know that with your own kids you’ve had to talk to them about bullying and try to comfort them sometimes when they’ve dealt with school bullies as so many of us have as parents. It’s terrifying as a parent to think about your child being treated this way.

Bryna R.: The bystander effect is real. Bystanders can do a lot of good, or they can do a lot of harm. Right. They absolutely can. It’s important to me as a mom to teach my children the importance of being a safe place for their friends and their neighbors, people in the community. Teaching them that they should always be a warm and welcoming place that someone would feel safe to tell them if something was making them sad or hurting their feelings.

Melissa Ross: Dr. Cheshire with UF Health, can you bring us up to date? I don’t think you’re the lead author on the study, but on the study that UF Health is conducting right now about bullying and how it is a public health crisis for young people.

Dr. David C.: Sure. Basically, the numbers are kind of all over the place depending on the research you’re looking at, for how often bullying occurs and not just focusing on those being bullied, the survivors of bullying, but also the bullies themselves because so many people who are bullying had been bullied for themselves. The reason that so much of the research right now is looking at children, is because this is the formative time where people are learning how to deal with adversity, and so the very same coping strategies that they learn and what’s effective and what keeps them safe, is what they’re going to take with them into adulthood, and so if you learn that aggression for the sake of aggression worked for you as a bully, you’re probably going to bring that with you to college and beyond, and it’s going to start getting you into all kinds of trouble there.

Dr. David C.: So focusing on children to learn more effective strategies of how to deal with adversity, how to deal with not getting your own way, and also how to deal when somebody is stepping on your own rights, who to go to, where are safe places to go. And absent that, too often people isolate themselves because they don’t trust the authority, or they don’t know who to go to, or which adults to go to, and there’s so many resources out there from the school teacher, to the principal, to the school psychologist, to the school social worker, and on and on, the children don’t feel safe with those people. They isolate themselves and become further targets for bullying too because they lose their resources.

Melissa Ross: All right. I’ll have to leave it there. Bryna Rodenhizer, Jax Moms Blog. Neil Hooper, who is the COO of STOPit, and Dr. David Chesire of UF Health Jax. Thanks so much.

There IS a solution.

STOPit has had the great privilege of meeting people all over the country and around the world who are bravely, and effectively, addressing the issues of bullying, harassment and intimidation. With each conversation, we are more encouraged than ever that bullying and its consequences may one day soon be the exception rather than the rule in school culture, workplace culture and our communities.

For more information about STOPit and its impact, including how the mobile app empowers bystanders to become upstanders, call us now and speak with one of our subject experts.

Empowering School Administrators and Students with New Libraries of Social and Emotional Learning Content

They say the three R’s (reading, writing, arithmetic) are the cornerstone of a good education, but don’t SEL short the importance of social and emotional learning.

Each day children go to school, they broaden their perspectives through their course work and structured instruction. At the same time, each conversation they have with their peers, every emotion they feel when they get back a test score, each time they interact with children different than themselves, they are navigating a social and emotional learning (SEL) process that will help form who they are and who they’ll become in life.

A growing body of evidence suggests that a student’s SEL environment can significantly impact their academic success. Those who feel confident and comfortable in the classroom tend to be better-focused and more engaged students. In response, school districts across the country are incorporating SEL lessons into their curricula from the early years on through high school.

A November report by the nonprofit Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a leader in the research and advocacy of SEL programs in U.S. schools, concluded that most high school students believe their schools could do a better job of helping them develop SEL skills. CASEL surveyed 1,300 current students and recent graduates of high schools that were rated as having high, medium or low SEL capabilities – that is, tools and programs specifically geared toward helping educators develop key social and emotional skills. Overall, students from strong SEL schools reported doing much better academically and feeling better prepared for life than those in weak SEL schools. Among the other findings:

  • Nearly nine out of 10 students at strong SEL schools felt motivated to work hard and do their best in school, compared to just 39 percent of students in weak SEL schools.
  • More than half of the current high school students said that feeling stressed and dealing with disruptive students in class make it harder for them to learn and do their best in school.
  • Citing the trends with younger students, Project Achieve confirms that Elementary School Principals’ biggest concern is addressing students’ behavior and emotional problems.
  • Vulnerable students feel especially impacted by social and emotional problems in school. For example, students from lower-income homes are less likely to feel comfortable participating (39 percent) and excited about learning (48 percent) in school than their more privileged peers.

STOPit Solutions is the only anonymous reporting application to offer SEL resources for educators and student users. The STOPit SEL Center contains an easy-to-search database of articles, studies, video, audio and other content covering topics from bullying to depression. It is carefully curated by a team of experts, sparing users the time and effort required to sift through Google returns and determine if they’re reputable.

The SEL content has a natural connection to STOPit’s mission, as the most frequently reported incident types closely align with the kinds of stressors that impede student learning. The top five most common incidents of the 2017-18 school year were misconduct, harassment, bullying, substance abuse and threats.

Administrators can share anonymous links to SEL content that are untraceable, giving students the comfort of knowing that their conversations will remain private.

“The SEL Center library gives both staff and students access to accurate and timely information right through the STOPit app – and makes the STOPit platform truly different than standard tip apps,” said Wally Leipart, a K-4 school principal and administrator in the Gilman (Wis.) School District. “The SEL content library has increased our confidence that we can properly respond to our students.”

STOPit’s broadcast feature also makes it possible to send anonymous links to a full student body at once. This can be especially useful in times when an administrator would like to address an emerging school-wide problem.

“Suicidal ideation is very prevalent right now and we’re getting more and more reports about it,” STOPit COO Neil Hooper said. “If there’s content you’d like to send around for a special topic area like that, you can just get the anonymous link, type in a message and broadcast it out to everyone who has the app.”

Contact STOPit today to learn more about how we can assist with your school’s SEL efforts.

During National Catholic Schools Week, Let’s Stop Bickering Over the Term ‘Bullying’, and Make Positive Action A Priority

Frank A. DiLallo

National Catholic Schools Week has been an annual celebration of Catholic education in the U. S. for the last 45 years. The theme for Catholic Schools Week from January 27 to February 2, 2019 is; “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.”

There are few greater threats to all schools than bullying. There is absolutely no school immune to peer mistreatment and the insidious impact it has on learning and the overall school climate. In every way, peer mistreatment is the antithesis to learning, serving, leading and succeeding.

The good news is that a myriad of successful strategies is available for positive and hopeful response. We can literally turn this problem into an opportunity for FORMATION and CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT!

With formation and character development in mind, it is imperative that we put things into perspective. The term “Bullying” is highly ambiguous and consensus about how, exactly, to characterize bullying behavior is extremely elusive. Every person who learns of an incident wears a subjective lens based on their own previous experiences (personal and professional). Often, administrators, teachers, and parents get hung up on the conundrum; “Is this or is this not bullying?”, at the expense of a quick intervention and resolution. As research proves that asking this question, “Is this really bullying?”, is bound to cause a great deal of consternation and confusion between school and home – with plenty of room for disagreements I feel the term “peer mistreatment” is more accurate, and reduces confusion and the likelihood that adults will label, or make assumptions about a child’s character or intentions.

Most likely, trying to get to the bottom of whether a situation is bullying or is not bullying is well intended, however the energy expended to make such a determination is exhausting and can be highly erroneous. By viewing all behaviors as “bullying” we can run amuck; the risk of unwittingly under responding to a volatile situation, such as physical assault, or over responding to a less serious situation, such as eye rolling.

We should by all means take every incident seriously, however after investigating, our efforts should focus on tailoring a unique response based on the developmental age of the child(ren) and the severity of the situation. We are not responding to “bullying”, we are sensitively responding to misguided actions. Please remember; “This child made a mistake, he/she is not a mistake.”

The #1 top priority for adults at school and parents at home should always include two key questions:

  1. Did the action(s) cause or does the action(s) have the potential to cause physical or emotional harm?
  2. Did the action(s) interfere with or does the action(s) have the potential to interfere with student learning?

It is important for us to create a paradigm shift from problem-centric bullying language, to more effectively align our responses with positive solution-centric approaches that embody compassion. Being Solution-Centric means that we are proactively engaging students in opportunities to learn and grow. Proactive means promoting skill-based learning, whereas anti as in “Anti-bullying” is reactive. It is much more effective and efficient to promote the behaviors we do want in students rather than efforts to eliminate or move student’s away from behaviors we don’t want.

There are many evidenced-based frameworks and programs to promote Pro-Social Skills. Religious and Public Schools adopt approaches that work for their environments. For Catholic and other Christian schools, a Christ-centered focus on the Gospel Guidelines is essential. For public schools Character-Based Education and Social Emotional Learning are key. In both cases, an effective anonymous reporting system such as STOPit should be an integral part of both Christian and public schools to effectively mitigate and respond to students in distress.

With this “new view” in mind; ALL incidents of peer mistreatment are taken seriously and every effort is made to guide misguided actions toward meaningful opportunities to learn, serve, lead and succeed, in educating and promoting pro-social skills for the formation of the whole child.

Helpful Resources
STOPit Solutions
Peace Be With You Christ Centered Bullying Redirect
National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA)
Social Emotional Learning
Character Education

Guest author, Frank A. DiLallo, is a Professional Counselor and certified Prevention Specialist who works in the Office of Child & Youth Protection for the Diocese of Toledo. He frequently consults with principals, teachers and parents for preK-12 in the Diocese, as well as Catholic schools across the country.

DiLallo is also the author of several books and articles that address bullying and its impact, including: Peace Be With You Christ-Centered Bullying Solution, Peace2U Three Phase Bullying Solution, Peace Be With You Christ Centered Bullying Redirect, Bullying Redirect: New Strategies for Christian Educators and Bullying Redirect: New Strategies for Christian Parents.

Learn more about how the STOPit anonymous reporting solution is helping Catholic Schools build safer, more supportive school communities.

New Year Brings New Resolve for Students Ready to Report Bullying

School administrators, have you seen a few more reports from your students right after the holidays? There is a reason associated with that and here we will share our findings and research.

Unlike what schools typically see a few weeks after opening day — when bullies zero in on their targets and start getting aggressive — many of reports can be taken as a positive sign. Research show that what you’ll see shortly after winter break are students getting long-festering troubles off their chests so they can enjoy a peaceful, productive second half of the school year.

Why? As it turns out, there’s no place like home for the holidays.

“When the students go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, they have more chances to speak with their older siblings or other trusted family members,” STOPit Solutions Chief Revenue Officer Neil Hooper said. “Over these breaks, students spend extended time with their family, and for college students in particular, it may have been a number of weeks since they last visited home. They often get the guidance they need over these breaks to understand that what they have been experiencing is not acceptable and they need to report what they have seen.”

Emboldened by these discussions, the students take steps necessary to make things right – talking to teachers, acting as upstanders and yes, anonymously reporting issues. According to Hooper, a review of data submitted to STOPit’s 3,000 school customers shows a brief but very valuable statistical increase in reports in the weeks following the long winter break vs. the average for the year.

“We certainly know that there is stress around the holidays, and that not everyone’s holiday break is positive,” Hooper said. “This family stress can be a source of reporting. However, the largest impact of a holiday break is positive.”

STOPit helps ensure that the act of reporting does not add to students’ stress. The mobile app was designed to feel as familiar as possible to today’s generation of digital natives, functioning and appearing just like a text message. Users can count on the knowledge that their conversations will remain completely anonymous, until or unless they choose to identify themselves. For schools that don’t have the staff available to respond to STOPit reports on holidays and other off hours, STOPit also offers a 24/7 monitoring service.

Those assigned to administer STOPit in their schools can return from the break prepared to take advantage of the windfall of information and act to address issues that were kept out of their view.

“School administrators should not only be ready for their return, but this opportunity should be cherished,” Hooper said. “Encouraging students to open up and let their parents be parents, and encouraging students to reflect with their family is an important process. Let’s not forget that helping students is not just for the schools, but for the parents as well.”

This post-holiday surge is just one example of the important, nationwide trends being gleaned through data collected by STOPit schools across the country. In addition to these universal insights, individual schools can also benefit from analytics particular to their own, unique community. Using the STOPit Admin tool, schools can easily identify trends impacting their own students, allowing counselors and educators to prepare and respond to potential opportunities and challenges in the way best suited for their special school community. And with a suite of carefully curated social-emotional learning content now available through the mobile app, schools can easily make positive content available to their students to help them build resiliency on topics most impactful to that student community.

Contact us to learn more about how educators are using the insights from STOPit analytics to provide better protection for their students.

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